Here are the parts they interviewed me for:
Montreal’s vibrant and innovative food scene, inspired by the influx of immigrants over the years, offers visitors unique eating opportunities, like wood-fire baked bagels introduced by Jews from Eastern Europe and a distinctly French Canadian junk food called poutine.
Merely mention poutine to Montrealers, and the inflection in their voices changes to adoration and awe for this ultimate Quebecois comfort food. The combination of French fries, cheese curds and gravy is eaten day or night and is served everywhere — from fast food joints like McDonald’s, Burger King (and local equivalents like La Belle Province or Valentine) to high-end establishments. The exact origins of poutine are unknown, though it is generally thought to be unique to Quebec, entering the dining scene in the late 1950s. One popular outpost is La Banquise, open 24 hours a day, every day, where more than two dozen varieties of the dish are served. Matt LeGroulx, a musician and amateur historian who gives off-the-cuff food and urban history tours that include Montreal’s lesser known eating establishments, has his own favourite: Paul Patates (760 Rue Charlevoix; 514-937-2751). “Their poutine is amazing,” he said, focusing less on exotic toppings and more on “the holy trinity” of ingredients. They also serve a great Spruce Beer, he said.
The blog Poutine Pundit reviews and ranks Montreal’s poutine restaurants, some of which serve high-end versions of the familiar comfort food. At the newly opened Poutineville, “the owners have let their imagination run wild”, and guests can design their own. Garde-Manger makes a lobster-based one which helped Chef Chuck Hughes win an Iron Chef battle recently. At Restaurant Au Pied de Cochon, fries are cooked in duck fat and guests can order regular poutine or with foie gras chunks and sauce. “The first time I tried it I almost cried because it was so beautiful,” LeGroulx said.
“For me, the best places to feel the beat of the multiculturalism of Montreal are the fresh markets,” said Ronald Poiré, a guide who specializes in walking food tours for VDM Global and Tourisme Montréal. The city has four main markets, including the popular, Jean-Talon Public Market in Little Italy. Montreal’s culinary offerings are constantly evolving, of course, but some have stood the test of time.
Schwartz’s Deli, established in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, is considered by many to be the the best spot for smoked meat, a Montreal tradition. Frank Silva, the general manager makes the meat just as the deli did in 1928, hand rubbed with herbs and spices, marinated, smoked steamed and hand sliced. “Nowadays, people take shortcuts,” Silva said, but “we still do it the old-fashioned way”. The meat is typically served in sandwiches on rye bread, similar to corned beef and pastrami in the United States, but the spices and processing are quite different, Silva said. The Montreal variety is so revered it has inspired books, documentaries and the recent Schwartz’s: The Musical, about to begin its second run at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal from 20 July to 7 August. To try other places that serve good smoked meat, but without the lines, LeGroulx recommends the Main Deli (3864 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montréal; 514-843-8126 () )and the Snowdon Deli.
This Quebecois version of shepherd’s pie is made with layers of ground beef, mashed potatoes and a can of creamed corn in the middle. It started out as a working class food but today everybody eats it. Urban myth holds that it was first made by Chinese cooks during the building of the railroad, but Poiré said it has never been proven. The dish “is almost too rustic” to find in restaurants, LeGroulx said. “It’s even below hot dogs.” But once a year, in early autumn, Au Pied de Cochon makes a sophisticated version: potato purée with roasted garlic and cheese curds on top, creamed corn in the middle and braised pork and buffalo at the bottom, cooked in a wood oven.
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